"The Girl Who Was Death": Allegory of an Allegory

Forums British Sci Fi Series The Prisoner "The Girl Who Was Death": Allegory of an Allegory

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    Here’s an interesting theory I’ve had for a while. Interesting to me, anyways. 🙂

    In “The Girl Who Was Death,” Number Six reads a story to children. In the story, Number Two and his assistant are portrayed respectively as Doctor Schnipps and his daughter, Sonia.

    What’s the deal?

    First Theory: It’s just a story, and Number Six puts Number Two and his assistant into the story just for fun.

    Possible, but not very interesting. Also doesn’t seem in character for Number Six, who just loves to put one over on Number Two.

    Second Theory: The story actually describes a mission Number Six undertook before he resigned, and he recognizes Number Two and his assistant as being the adversaries he fought against back then.

    More interesting, but doesn’t quite make sense, since Doctor Schnipps and Sonia are killed at the end of the story, and at the time the story is being told, they are both obviously still alive.

    Third Theory: Number Six’s story, The Village Story, is in fact an allegory of the series. It symbolically describes what has happened to Number Six thus far, and what he plans to do about it in the near future. In effect, Number Six has revealed that he has guessed the nature of the Village, as well as his plan of action, all in full view of Number Two, but in such a way that Number Two thinks it is all a “blessed fairy tale.”


    The Girl Who Was Death (hereafter abbreviated “Girl”):

    Colonel Hawke-Englishe, while investigating a plot by Schnipps to destroy London, is murdered. Mister X, after confering with his contact, Potter from Danger Man, takes over the investigation. He does this by purposefully making himself a target.

    The Prisoner:

    Obviously we can only guess at these corresponding events, since they occur before the series begins. Perhaps ZM-73 had learned something of the forces behind the Village. Perhaps he was taking over an investigation previously worked by Chambers, who was murdered by the Village (“A most important day, remember? Getting ready to meet Chambers. About to become late of the Foreign Office. You waited and waited, but he never turned up.”). The way ZM-73 is dressed at the start of the series, he could be coming from a funeral. And he may have resigned purely to make himself a target for the Village forces. To make them reveal themselves, by forcing them to take action against him. It’s worth noting that this was a tactic often used by John Drake.


    After narrowly eluding several traps set by Sonia Schnipps, Mister X follows her to a ghost village called Witchwood.

    The Prisoner:

    After resigning, ZM-73 is gassed in his apartment, abducted, and taken to a mysterious community called The Village. They give him a number, and take away his name.


    In Witchwood, Sonia Schnipps subjects Mister X to a series of tests, which become deadlier and deadlier.

    The Prisoner:

    Number Six is subjected to a series of tests, finally culminating in Degree Absolute.


    Mister X survives all the tests, but tricks Sonia into thinking she’s killed him. He then sneaks aboard her helicopter, and she unwittingly takes him to a secret tunnel leading to Doctor Schnipps’ lighthouse/rocket.

    The Prisoner:

    Note: At this point, we’re into Number Six guessing about the nature of the Village, and his plan of action. Thus, while he may be trying to predict the future in his story, he can’t actually know for sure what will happen.

    Number Six survives Degree Absolute, and is taken to a secret tunnel. The tunnel leads to an underground launch facility.


    Mister X disguises himself as one of the Napoleons, and infiltrates the lighthouse/rocket.

    The Prisoner:

    Number Six appears to be considering the Village’s offer to become their leader. And later, during the course of his escape, he disguises himself as one of the Delegates.


    Mister X is captured, and tied to a chair in the nose cone of the lighthouse/rocket. Doctor Schnipps intends to launch the rocket with Mister X inside it.

    The Prisoner:

    Rocket Number One contains several containment pods. ORBIT 2 is for Number Two, ORBIT 48 is for Number 48. The third pod, simply labelled ORBIT, may be for Number Six himself, since the Village tells him they will no longer refer to him by a number. Apparently the Village is considering launching all three of the men into orbit.


    Mister X escapes his bonds, and sabotages the rocket. He escapes on Doctor Schnipps’ boat, while tricking the Doctor and Sonia into blowing themselves and the rocket into a million pieces.

    The Prisoner:

    Number Six survives his odd encounter with “Number One,” sabotages the rocket and sets it to launch early. He breaks his fellow prisoners out, and with the Butler, escapes in the Village’s mobile jail cell. The rocket launches prematurely, destroys Rover, and apparently burns up everybody in the underground bunker.

    So ends The Village Story.

    “The Girl Who Was Death” is often taken for a fluff episode. A light-hearted spoof of the spy genre, and nothing more. But I think there are some interesting parallels here. And wouldn’t it be just like McGoohan to mirror the actions of Number Six; to tell us a story that gives us virtually all the answers we’re looking for, but to tell it in such a way that we don’t realize what we’re hearing.

    Thus, if “The Girl Who Was Death ” really is allegory for The Prisoner, look at all the things we can learn:

    Where am I?

    In the Village. A secret community for extracting information from people who know too much, but under the surface something even more diabolical: a hidden first-strike platform, almost certainly capable of launching nuclear warheads onto chosen targets. London, perhaps? Possible goal: start a war by tricking one country into thinking it was nuked by another.

    What do you want?

    Information. Number Six resigned after the death of a fellow agent, in order to make himself a target of the village, in order to learn the truth about them, so he could stop them.

    Whose side are you on?

    That would be telling. No side. Every side. The Village is run by an independant group with their own agenda, not working for any one specific country. Crazy scientists with Napoleonic complexes, like Schnipps.

    I am not a number. I am a person.

    Number Six is John Drake. His contact in the story, Potter, is the same Potter seen in one of the last episodes of Danger man.

    So how did Number Six learn or suspect the truth hidden beneath the Village?

    Good question. A few possibilities:

    He saw Control once, on a monitor in the Green Dome, during his brief stint as Number Two, in “Free for All.” Perhaps he recognized something in Control that tipped him off.

    He’s seen soldiers in the Village twice. Once when he snuck underneath the Village through the Town Hall in “The General,” and once when soldiers forcibly removed him from his house, to hook him up to the Seltzman Machine in “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling.” This too may have tipped him off the the truth we finally learn in “Fall Out,” when we see many more soldiers.

    The rest, who knows?

    It is interesting that “The Girl Who Was Death” is positioned just before “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out,” though.


    No. 241

    Edited because the name of the Girl Who Was Death is Sonia, not Nadia. Dagnabbit.


    Of the theories I’d automatically go with the third one.


    😯 wow!

    This was the second episode I saw and the reason I decided never to watch the Prisoner. (Things have since changed, of course….)

    I have to say I have developed a new respect for it after this masterpiece. Next time I watch it I may actually pay attention (erm… next time I watch the series I won’t skip over it) so I can come back and comment. 😀

    (But isn’t she Sonja, not Nadia?)

    83 ;D


    Yes, you’re quite right, Pet. Dunno why I kept calling her Nadia.

    No. 241


    Why Nadia? Perhaps the Chimes of Big Ben have been rattling your brain. 😉 (I kid — twas Nadia in that one).

    The Girl Who Was Death has always been a favourite episode of mine; so wacky, and not just for the lovely Sonja. I know it doesn’t fit in well, but it was a lovely diversion. One of my favourite Star trek eps was Gary 7, another departure though handled differently (yep he’s also a number) which they wanted to inttroduce for a new show: Assignment Earth. I’ve heard somwhere that TGWWD was intended to introduce a new show (have no idea of the veracity, seems unlikely…).

    Really must watch Danger Man’s “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove.”


    Well I always thought it was a mixture of theory 1 and theory 2.
    He’s teling the story of a previous mission but has substituted the current number 2 and assistant into it just to annoy them.

    I loved ‘The Girl Who was Death’ (and Gary 7). It was so different. I loved the campness, the ridiculous disguises, the moustache, the idyllic cricket match with the bomb. ‘You have just been poisoned’ written on the bottom of the glass. I’m afraid I didn’t see the allegory (OK, so I’m shallow 😆 ), though I can see where you’re coming from now you point it out.

    On a tangent, Gary 7 was wonderful, the mysterious stranger who turns up, sorts something out and vanishes again. I loved the way the cat momentarily became human too. So much potential wasted. I can’t believe they didn’t go ahead with a series.


    I think you’re right right on the third theory. I still to this day wondered why they had a rocket under the village and why the final episode was called “Fall Out”. But it all makes sense now, looking at things “through the looking glass” of “Prisoner logic”.

    Technically, it’s the only conclusion that makes sense, staying in the mindset of the “Village Reality” of coveying hidden truths. Unless everyone actually thinks, after all the effort that went into the creation of the Village world, that the writers would stoop to doing a fluff piece three episodes from the end of the series.

    I think every setting, line of dialogue, prop, etc., was designed to have meaning as a piece in the puzzle.

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