The Prisoner: Pilot Episode: The Edge of Within

By Roderick Taylor

December 15, 1986

Act 1

1. Int. Car Engine:

Inside the engine. Black valve lifters, cross-bone pistons, manifold fire, blue smoke spooling off hot steel. The powerful roar of a V-8 winding out, blowing blue flame.

Fire cross-fades into the grillwork of a late-modeled black American car.

2. Ext. Street- Night

From close ahead the camera leads the car pulling slowly away and rising up to hood level. The shining metal and windshield reflect the sky. The camera starts a slow zoom toward the silhouette of the driver. It step-zooms to metallic clangs like giant anvils being beaten in the emptiness of the moon. Cut to:3. ext. Toy Store- Night

Christmas carols mew through tinny speakers along the storefront.

R. Smith, a dark-haired man in his mid-thirties, wearing a black wool overcoat comes out of the store with a shopping bag full of toys.

With animal instinct, his attention is called to something off-screen.

4. Smith's POV

The black car comes toward him from the far end of the street. The roar of its engine rising into range.

5. Int. Car-Night

From the back seat the camera moves in a slow ellipse around the driver's head revealing his face.

It is the face we've just seen in the street-the face of R. Smith. His eyes are clear and blue like polar ice.

6. Ext. Toy Store- Night

Smith watches a second as the death car bears down on him.

Reflexively, his clear eyes dart about for escape routes.

7. Various angles

In quick cuts the faces of hunter and hunted flash across the screen. They are the same man.

8. ext. Toy Store- night

At the last second, Smith heaves the bag of toys and dives out of the car's way as it slams head on into a wall.

A rain of windshield glass like ice crystals shoot forward in slow motion.

9. Another angle

R. Smith is already on his feet adrenal-jolted into high gear.

From under his coat, he draws his gun and cautiously but quickly advances towards the crash.

10. Another angle

The front half of the black car is crumpled. Steam and oil spew from the wreck.

The scuffling of feet on the pavement, the sound of heavy breathing, and the maddeningly unperturbed Christmas Carols still play through the tinkling glass and hissing steam. A toy car rolls the last few inches across the pavement and comes to a stop against the curb.

Cautiously, R. Smith approaches and opens the "driver's" door, his nine-millimeter at the ready.

Shock shoots through him when a crash test dummy falls lifelessly to the pavement at his feet.

He steps back, unnerved by the strange cloth and fiberglass corpse that had tried to kill him.

Flames now begin to lick from under the car. R. Smith continues to back away.

As the fire engulfs the wreckage, it explodes live napalm-death bred to cling.

R. Smith ducks and shields his face with his hands when he looks up at the fireball raging in the street and is stunned to see emerging from the fire, engulfed in flames, the crash test dummy. Cut to:

11. Int. Bedroom-C.U.Smith's Face- Day.His eyes pop open.

12. Smiths POV

Seven year old Sean pushes the toy car up his father's chest toward his face.

Smith grabs it up in the moment he awakens, then relaxes and smiles at his son, breathing hard.

R. Smith


13. Int. Conference Room- day

At the end of a long table sits a black man in a dark blue suit with gold cufflinks, Payton.

What's the problem?

Smith stands at the other end of the table. He throws his security badge down.

I quit.

There is a long silence.



Payton cocks his head and looks at Smith from an angle. He holds up his hand.

Your hand can't "resign" from your arm. Sit down.

Smith sits.

I can't do what they're asking me to do. I'm not a killer.

You've killed before.

In self defense.

The camera rises to the ceiling and moves toward a lighting fixture.

Payton: (O.S.- Out of Sight)
When you strap on a gun and step out into the street, you're going out there to kill in self-defense. You're not going out to die...You're going out to kill in self-defense.

14. Another angle.

The camera moves into the lighting fixture. A dying moth, gigantic in the foreground, kicks its legs in the death throws. The sound of its wing beats is magnified to horrific amplitude while beyond it, the two florescent tubs stretch into a murderously bright infinity.

Payton: (O.S.)
That's non-aggressive violence, isn't it?

Another angle.

Smith has been staring up at the light. He looks down at Payton.

I can't hear you anymore, Payton.

He stands up, shakes his head and turns to leave.

Where are you going?

I'm gonna find somebody to love.

Smith grasps the doorknob. The door is locked. He slowly turns to face Payton.

You can get in, but you can't get out.

You can't keep the door locked forever.

Who got to you?

Smith kicks the door. It doesn't budge. He turns, grabs one of the heavy chairs from the conference table and smashes it into the door. The chair splinters.

Payton is on his feet.

Who got to you?

No one. I just want to quit.

We don't believe you. We know you better than you know yourself. I've read your psychological profile. I've memorized it chapter and verse. It's like a psychic fingerprint. It tells you a lot about a person.

Smith reaches into his inside pocket, takes out a vinyl pen holder and removes from it a slender silver pick–a burglar's tool. He deftly picks the lock in about three seconds, opens the door, casts a cocky look at Payton and starts out.

16. Int. Hallway-Day

Adler is a tall man with a cold, chiseled countenance. He steps directly into Smith's path as he exists the conference room.

Smith relaxes his defense half-way.

What's wrong? What was all that racket in there?

Payton steps into the doorway behind Smith.

That was Smith cracking up.

That was the sound of our relationship splintering, Adler. I quit. No more cloak and dagger. I want a real life.

It's operation six. He doesn't want to do it.

If that's your decision. Well...I think you should talk to the Old Man, first.

He's gonna have to pay for that chair and the...

Back off, Payton. (to Smith) Talk a walk with me.

17. Int. Basement Hallway-Day

A hand-held camera leads/follows the two men as they walk down this hallway deep inside the building.

What's the problem?

I've been having bad dreams lately. At least, I think they're dreams...

The twixt to crucifix wakes fire to speak.

Smith looks at him oddly.Smith

Adler shakes his head.

I'm sorry. I've been suffering a speech disorder lately. I meant to say: "It's just a little further."

Maybe you should quit.

I wish I could.

Just then they pass a glass wall. Smith is shocked. He catches a glimpse of what appears to be his son, Sean. Someone leads the boy into a room and closes the door.

Smith becomes agitated. Anxiety shoots through him.

Hey what...that's Sean. What the hell are you doing? What's he doing here?

Smith looks up and down the hall. There's no door into the glass room.

Well, if you're quitting, someone's going to have to take care of the boy.

He grabs Adler by the collar and slams him up against the wall, leering into his face, but Adler remains impassive. He makes no effort to defend himself.

The Old Man is waiting.

18. Int. Office- DayThe "Old Man" has long greying hair but here is a power and intensity behind his eyes which marks him unequivocally as the director of this group.

He sits at his desk while Smith and Adler stand facing him.

You have no right to hold my son.

Old Man
I do what I have to do. And so will you.


You are our top operative, Smith.

Old Man
You're going to do this. It's your job.

Smith turns to storm out but realizes he can't go.

Old Man
This man you're going to kill is very dangerous and very evil. he is the enemy. You should have no qualms about it. It's all in here.

He slides a dossier across the desk.

Do this for old times.

Old Man
Do this for the future. We'll take care of you and your son. You'll be free.

I am free.

Old Man
Watch this tape then make up your mind.

He slides a video tape to Smith.

Yes, make up your mind.

He just said that.

Old Man
This meeting is over. Just do it.

19. C.U. on stack of photographs.

Black and white eight-by-ten's as Smith sorts through them. They are grainy blow-ups of a rather obscure figure. In none of the photographs is the man clearly visible.

Angle on air conditioning vent.

The constant whisper of air through the grating. A black ribbon tied to the grating floats on the air currents.

A strange sound begins from below.

21. Another angle.

From a high angle directly above, we look down on Smith as he sits before the flickering cobalt-glow of a television screen.

It's as though the walls were watching him as he watches the tape.

Angle on Smith's face.

The camera creeps steadily in while the peculiar sounds emit from the television and the light flickers on his face.

The sound is like distorted pigeon coos and muffled human speech. Angle on monitor.

On the monitor screen a legend appears: "The following instructions will lead you to subject. 1. Concentrate on the light."

A blue light appears in the center of the screen.

"2. Relax."

"3. Go where you are going."

the sound changes to a low hum. The sound and light have a hypnotic effect on Smith who relaxes and does as instructed: He goes where he is going.

24. Angle on monitor

On the monitor screen, the camera now moves rapidly down computer generated streets. It's a three-dimensional map of a city. The lacking-in-detail forms correspond to actual buildings, subways, street corners, etc.

The hypothetical video camera moves into a building, up a lift and out the door, into a room where a flurry of mysterious subliminal images flicker across the screen.

25. Another angle.

The camera, like some unseen companion draws closer to Smith's face so that the colors from the video screen can be seen flickering in his eyes.

16. Smith's POV

The camera creeps closer to the video screen as it seems to draw the viewer's senses into it.

The replay of the map runs, now, at an ever accelerating rate with intensified colors and more subliminal built-in triggers, a face, a breast, an abstract symbol, crash-test dummies, more map. As the camera moves into the grain of the monitor we Dissolve to:27. Ext. Airport- Day

Smith disembarks from an old DC-3, "Transglobal Aviation" emblazoned on the side. He carries a black Haliburton briefcase. Cut to:

28. Int. Taxi Cab-Day.

Smith sits back in the cab looking out the window.

29. Smith's POV:

Looking up at the buildings as they pass by, the exaggerated angles match corresponding shots seen earlier on the video screen.

30. Int. Subway Car- Day.

Not a real subway car-a computer generated interior. The doors slide open and the camera pov glides out and into the station.

Reality bleeds through as people and concrete and steel dissolve through the computer version of the station.

Smith makes his way up the crowded escalator.

31. Ext.Street-Day

With the fixed-gaze of a man on a mission, Smith rounds a corner onto a narrow street.

32. Smith's POV:

The converging rows of buildings intercut with the corresponding computer generated model he viewed earlier.

33.Another angle

He comes to a building, oddly non-descript and immensely tall–a gleaming tower thrust against the sky.

34. Int. Building-Day

R. Smith crosses quickly to the elevator.

35. Int. Elevator-Day

Smith presses the button for the thirty-sixth floor.

36. Angle on indicator lights

The floors click off in rapid succession stopping at thirty-five.

37. Another angle

Smith presses thirty-six again and again but the elevator refuses to budge. The doors won't open.38.Int. Elevator Shaft.

From above we look down on the elevator as Smith removes the steel hatch and climbs onto the top of the elevator.

39. Another angle.

Hand over hand he climbs the cable to the thirty-sixth floor.

He swings himself over to the ledge of the elevator door. He reaches up and flips a level in the upper right hand corner of the door and pries the door open.

40. Int. Hallway

He hears distant music-clean, brittle notes on a piano.

He takes from his coat a pistol and goes where he is going–toward the music.

41. Another angle

At the end of the hall a door stands slightly ajar. He pushes it open.

42. Another angle

Silently he enters. It is a large room with tall windows and a shining wooden floor. In the middle of the room a man sits, leaning an elbow on the music stand of a grand piano, playing with one hand.

43. Int. Room- Day

Smith takes slow and deliberate aim, his finger tightening on the trigger when suddenly the man turns and stares right into his eyes. There is no sign of fear.

I was expecting...Oh my God. I know you.

It is the moment of recognition not the leveled gun that causes the man to blanch.

Smith lowers his weapon a few degrees, assessing.

Nice try.

The man stands up, stares at the would-be assassin. Tears fill his eyes.

God. They've got you, too. I'm so sorry.

Smith takes aim again.

Man (stronger)
If you kill me, you will be their slave. If you don't , you will be their prisoner as I have been these past twenty years.

I'm about to set you free.

The man holds one finger up by his face.

Is blood...

He moves his finger rapidly across his face to the other side. There is some deprogramming technique involved here.

...Thicker than Psychwar?

Smith blinks and refocuses his eyes.


Do you know who I am?

The enemy.

I am your father.

Smith's concentration is broken and he loosens his grip on the weapon to a barely perceptible degree.

I have no father.

You were born in St. Petersburg. Your mother's name was Nancy. She had the most beautiful green eyes. When you were six you stepped on a nail and it pierced your foot. No doubt, you still have the scar. When you were eight our house burned down while I was away. When you were nine I disappeared...and you never saw me again...until now, son.

He opens his hands as if to receive Smith, an odd expression of expectation and doubt in his face.

It's a trick.

It's the truth.

You're lying!

They are the one's who lie. They didn't tell you, did they? They sent you to kill me. I am your father. They are the enemy. They're invaded your mind. They programmed you–with images, words, powers. You must be very good. They only force the best to go where they are going.

The man smiles.

Smith looks confused and distraught as the Psych-program is broken.

How did you know that? It doesn't make sense. You're just trying your life.

My life is not the issue. Your obedience is. They can take my life anytime they want. I am a Prisoner!

There aren't any bars on the windows. The prison is your mind!

The man, sadly standing on the far side of the gulf of incomprehension, shakes his head no, no.

Man (softly)

Go ahead, then, kill me.

He smiles and in his smile is such sorrow and courage that Smith begins to disintegrate emotionally. He lets his arm fall limply to his side and walks to the door. The gun slips from his fingers and falls. He looks back at the man and exits, unknown to himself, into the prison that awaits.

44. Ext. Street- Twilight

Smith runs out of the building and along the street. It's the same street as before but everything is changed now, radically. An unearthly twilight has fallen.

The street is eerily deserted. All is seen through a slightly wide-angle lens–distorted subtly. A blue-grey light suffuses the air.

it is as though the thin veneer of normalcy had been stripped from this place revealing the city that was beneath the city–The reality within the illusion.

The streets and buildings are laid out as before but there is a different spirit to the place, as if the world has shifted a few degrees further on its axis.

A strange wind blows papers down the empty street. Their scraping is unnaturally loud. Commingled with the wind are distant voices, a wailing- or is it only the wind?

Smith looks up as he moves rapidly along. The sky is blotted out by a thick canopy of roiling clouds. An alluring beauty suffuses the air, yet ominous in its strangeness.

The camera leads him as he runs trying to retrace his route. To Smith's astonishment, a huge ball, Rover X, rolls into the intersection ahead of him. It moves to block his path as if a conscious being. It won't let him around it. He goes the other way.

Fear has overtaken him. Has his rational mind shattered? Are these distortions objective realities or delusions?

45. Int. Subway-Day

The subway station through whence he came is now utterly deserted. The graffiti has been replaced by an orderly array of symbols. The most prominent among them is a Penny-Farthing (a big Victorian bicycle).

He runs to the map of the subway. Above it in six inch black letters: INIS. It is then, through his heavy breathing, that he first notices a soft, but impersonal voice coming over the public address system.

Voice (V.O.)
The Zodiac wishes to remind you...Trust the Screws, they care.

The message is repeated in German, Spanish, Hebrew, Japanese, etc. Behind it, secular Christmas songs blare from tinny speakers.

46. Another angle

A hand-held camera leads Smith as he races up a flight of stairs to the street.

47. Ext. Street- Night

He bursts into the upper world like a submarine surfacing. the air is filled with the throb of a powerful engine. He looks up at the cloud canopy overhead. From beyond it some great craft is moving, unseen except for the cyclopean light that tries to burn through the cloud cover.

The camera moves in on his face as the weight of the sky presses down on him and the cloud-muffled throb of engines grows louder.

48. Ext. Rooftop-Night

Out of the overhanging mist, a chopper descends onto a rooftop helipad.

49. Ext. Fire Escape- Night

Smith clambers up the last section of a fire escape.

He sees a rusty piece of angle iron hanging from the side of the building. He yanks it and breaks it free from the crumbling mortar.

50. Ext Rooftop-Night

While the blades are still turning, a man in a black jumpsuit exists the chopper and goes into a rooftop door.

51. Int. Chopper-Night

The pilot is just shutting his systems down when, suddenly, the door swings open and Smith jumps in wielding a rusty piece of angle iron.

Get the hell outta here!

Up! Now!

The pilot throws the door open and starts to flee. Raising the iron to strike, Smith grips the pilot's jacket and pulls him back. Desperate rage and cold steel are convincing.

The pilot fumbles for the controls and the chopper lurches into the air.

Fly west.

52. Ext .rooftop-Night

The chopper crawls back into the cloud canopy. Dissolve to:

53. Int. Helicopter-Night

From high altitude we see the lights of the city beneath the obscuring cloud cover. It stretches on into the black curve of infinity. Dissolve to:

54. Another angle-later

The city, like a constellation fallen to earth, passes below them, vast and unreal.

55. C.U. Compass

In close-up the camera pans the instrument panel. the compass heading is due west. The fuel gauge moves visibly downward. The chronometer clicks off at high speed.

Pilot: (O.S.)

You're gonna get in trouble for this. You're gonna lose credits, if you got any.

Where the hell are we?


We're in the air! Four hours! I can't go on forever!

Keep flying! (Dissolve to:)

56. Another angle-later.

Passing below, still more of the endless city, from verdant splendor–back again to topographic oceans of concrete, gleaming spires, magellanic clouds of stars which dust the velvet blackness. A SERIES OF DISSOLVES.

The steady throw of the engine now falters.


That's it. Outta gas! We're going down!

End of Act I

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