"The Chimes of Big Ben" is an episode of the 1967-68 British science fiction-allegorical series, The Prisoner. It originally aired in the UK on ITV on 6 October 1967 and was first broadcast in the United States on CBS on 8 June 1968.
The episode starred Patrick McGoohan in the character of Number 6 and introduced perhaps the most popular of the many characters who would bear the title of "Number 2" in the series, that of Leo McKern. McKern's Number 2 would return for the last two episodes of the series.
The episode opens with the relentlessly cheerful voice of the radio announcer encouraging every Villager to participate in an upcoming crafts show. Number Six is playing chess near the beach when Number 2 (Leo McKern) joins him. During their conversation, a helicopter lands and an unconscious woman (Nadia Gray) is taken out on a stretcher.
Later, Number 6 is invited to The Green Dome where he and Number 2 watch the woman wake up on the main viewing screen. Number 2 says that she is the new Number Eight and that she will be Number 6's new neighbour.
When Number 6 returns to his cottage, Number Eight emerges, confused, and asks for directions to The Green Dome. When she returns later, she reveals to him that her name is Nadia, but she is suspicious that he is a Village spy. The day after, Nadia tries to escape by swimming out to sea but is brought back by Rover and interrogated in the hospital. In response, Number 6 makes a deal, agreeing to participate more in Village life — for instance, by entering the craft show — if this puts an end to her torture.
Number 6 and Nadia become closer and eventually plan to escape. She tells him that she knows the location of The Village: On the Baltic coast of Lithuania about 30 miles (48 km) from the Polish border.
At the craft show (where every entry except Number 6's is a depiction of Number 2 in some medium), Number 6 presents his work, a multi-piece abstract sculpture called "Escape". He is then awarded first prize and uses the "work units" he has won to purchase a tapestry, the entry of one of the other prize winners. At night, he and Nadia escape in his exhibit, which is really a carved boat, using the tapestry as a sail.
When they reach land, they meet Nadia's contact. Number 6 borrows the contact's watch since his own has stopped. Number 6 and Nadia then hide in a packing case as they travel to London. They end up in Number 6's old office and meet his former bosses. When they suspect him of being a double agent, Number 6 agrees to tell them why he resigned if Nadia is given protection.
However, as he is about to talk, Number 6 hears the familiar chimes of Big Ben. He looks at his watch and finds that it shows the same time — not the one hour's difference of the time in Poland. Realizing that he has been tricked, he begins a search of the office and discovers a tape recorder recreating the background sounds of London. He exits the building, finding himself back in The Village, with Nadia standing with Number 2 — thus revealing she was an operative all along.
Cast & Characters
- General: Finlay Currie
- Colonel J: Kevin Stoney
- Fotheringay: Richard Wattis
- Number Two's assistant: Christopher Benjamin
- Karel: David Arlen
- Number 38: Hilda Barry
- First Judge: Jack Le White
- Second Judge: John Maxim
- Third Judge: Lucy Griffiths
- The Announcer/Telephone Operator: Fenella Fielding (voice only)