Sunday, 30 June 2013

Unique But Similar: The Prisoner Compared by Andrew K Shenton

Much has been written on the subject of THE PRISONER, Patrick McGoohan's elliptical, surreal cult fantasy show first broadcast in 1967-8. Much of that can be boiled down to the fact that there was nothing like it ever before and there has been nothing like it since.

That, though, is apparently a fallacy, as this book by Andrew K Shenton sets out to demonstrate.

Taking the major themes of the this landmark show, Dr Shenton shows how they have been used in other shows such as DOCTOR WHO, BLAKE'S SEVEN, UFO, JOE 90, CHILDREN OF THE STONES, THE OMEGA FACTOR and others either before or since, rustling up an impressive array of references from other commentators on the show and the genre in general to back him up.

There is always room for another book about THE PRISONER, especially by such a scholar as Dr Shenton, but I am hard-pressed to see who this particular book is aimed it. It reads like a textbook and might be immensely useful for anyone studying a course in comparable Prisonerology (assuming there is such a thing), and Prisoner completists will, of course, want to see what he has to say, but it's hardly the most entertaining presentation for someone wanting a little light reading.

You also have to question the subject matter. It's true that the themes of THE PRISONER have cropped up elsewhere, not least since they first appeared in the show, but every influential show is going to leave a legacy. An informed examination of that legacy would be interesting, to be sure, but that doesn't seem to be what Dr Shenton is trying to say. What he is trying to do is to challenge the popular perception of THE PRISONER as something quite unique.

The success of that will depend on whether you agree with him or not, but having some chapters devoted to a single episode of another show does weaken his case. I mean one single episode of THE CHAMPIONS sharing some ideas doesn't exactly bring down the walls of the case for THE PRISONER 's reputation.

If you want to see what the talking points are then head over to ,, or all good bookstores.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Bill Dares Wins - Or Rather Doesn't - With Brian Gulliver's Travels

We have it on good authority that Brian Gulliver's Travels is a very funny radio series. Something has gone seriously wrong in the translation from show to book then as the one thing that is missing from this is the funny.

Brian Gulliver is a travel writer (did a bit of telly apparently) who has gone missing for some time. Now he's back and in an asylum recovering. His daughter meets with him to write down the stories he has to tell of his crazy journey.

Swift's Gulliver's Travels is possibly the most famous satire ever, although it is probably most known now from the bastardised Jack Black film and other movie versions. The book has lasted the test of time and so if you're going to do a new version then you better have something interesting and new to tackle. The book, however goes after some very obvious targets that have been widely covered before. Celebrity culture - yep that's in here, including the obligatory reality TV sideswipe. Our obsession with health and our bodies? Yep, you can tick that box as well. Crazy religions? Well of course. These are all barn doors to be hit with a shotgun.

The main issue for me was for the main characters. Brian Gulliver is an out and out selfish git with little to no thought for anyone else and happy to go along with anything as long as his life is a comfortable one. He's not the kind the character to idolise or empathise with and his ability to apologise it all away is infuriating.

His daughter, the chronicler of his story plays the foil for him, challenging him on all of his behaviour just in case we, the reader, didn't get the point or understand the theme being discussed.

For all that, it's easy to read and moves at a pace that actually robs it of depth since none of the places that Gulliver ends up in is much described beyond the theme that is being put forward there.

On finishing the book, you won't hate it, but you won't be singing its praises either. Oh well, back to Swift.