Hammer into Anvil

"Hammer into Anvil" is an episode of the allegorical British science fiction TV series, The Prisoner. It was written by Roger Woddis and directed by Pat Jackson and twelfth produced. It was the tenth episode to be aired in the UK on ITV (ATV Midlands and Grampian) on Friday 1 December 1967 and was first broadcast in the United States on CBS on Saturday 31 August 1968.[1][2]

"Hammer Into Anvil"
The Prisoner episode
Episode no.Series 1
Episode 10
Directed byPat Jackson
Written byRoger Woddis
Production code12
Original air date1 December 1967
Guest appearance(s)

The episode stars Patrick McGoohan as Number Six and features as Number Two Patrick Cargill.[3] The central themes of this episode are insecurity, paranoia, and conspiracy thinking in a leader.

Plot summary

Number Two interrogates a stubborn female prisoner, Number Seventy-Three, in the Village Hospital. Frustrated, he attacks her, she screams, and Number Six rushes to her aid. The commotion allows her to leap from her bed and kill herself by jumping out the first-floor window. Number Six swears to Number Two that he will pay for his cruelty.

Number Two forcibly has Number Six brought to the Green Dome and the two begin a war of nerves. Number Two quotes Goethe: Du mußt Amboß oder Hammer sein ("You must be Anvil or Hammer"). "And you see me as the anvil?" asks Number Six, to which Number Two answers "Precisely. I am going to hammer you." Already aware that he is being watched by the Village's hidden camera and spies at every turn, Number Six proceeds to act in a highly suspicious manner, as if he were some sort of spy or double agent. He takes six copies of the same record of Bizet's L'Arlésienne suite at the music store and plays them, eyeing his watch. He then writes out a message, that Number Fourteen retrieves a copy of, which claims to be from "D-6" to "XO4." Number Two is convinced that Number Six is a plant.

Number Two and Number Fourteen follow Number Six to where he drops a document in the cabin of the stone boat. They retrieve it, but the pages are all blank. After having them tested, Two suspects the technician of working with Number Six. Number Six then goes to place an ad (a quotation from Don Quixote) in the next issue of the Tally Ho. He then calls the head of Psychiatrics, posing as a superior who wants a report on Number Two's mental state. Two monitors the call and starts to become more paranoid at the behaviour of Number Six and those around him. Later, Six asks the town band to play the Farandole from the same Bizet piece. He leaves a fake message in a dead drop that is from a deceased person, wishing him a happy birthday.

Number Two becomes increasingly agitated, wishing he could get away with killing Number Six. Number Fourteen offers to do so, making it appear an accident, and challenges Number Six to a game of "kosho" — a Japanese, trampoline-based contact sport — but is unable to "accidentally" drown his opponent. Number Six leaves a cuckoo clock in front of Number Two's door, causing him to panic and summon a bomb squad. Six captures a pigeon, attaches a message to its leg and sets it free in the woods. The bird is intercepted by Number Two's forces, and Two sees that the message states that Six will send a visual signal the next morning. Six goes to the beach and sends a visual signal (in light-flash Morse code) — a nursery rhyme with no apparent hidden meaning, all witnessed by Two.

Later, Number Six is able to trick Number Two into believing that Number Fourteen is conspiring against him. When the other keepers of the village cannot discern the hidden meaning in Number Six's messages, Number Two suspects everyone working for him of being part of a conspiracy. Number Fourteen fights with Number Six, who throws him out of a window. In the end, Number Six confronts an unnerved and agitated Number Two, who expresses the belief that Number Six is really "D-6", a man sent by "XO4" to test his security. Feeding on Number Two's paranoia, Number Six charges Number Two with treason: if Number Two's belief was true, then he would be duty-bound not to interfere. At Number Six's suggestion, Number Two calls the hotline to Number One to report his own failures and ask that he be replaced.[1]



  • Several key exterior scenes featuring Patrick McGoohan were filmed on location in Portmeirion. None of the other principal actors in this episode appear in actual location footage, although a double is used for Number Fourteen in some location scenes.
  • George Orwell disputed Goethe when he wrote in "Politics and the English Language" that "In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about." As it is Number Six (the Anvil) who breaks Number Two (the Hammer), this may have been understood by the writer.
  • Patrick Cargill, who plays Number Two, also appears in the episode "Many Happy Returns" as Thorpe. It is left ambiguous as to whether or not it is the same character.
  • This is one of few episodes where Number Six makes no attempt to escape the Village, or resist its attempts to control or condition him. Instead, he subverts its close monitoring of his behaviour, movements and actions to drive the increasingly paranoid Number Two to breaking point.
  • The fictional martial art of "kosho" was devised for the prior episode "It's Your Funeral". It involves a contest between two helmeted combatants who spring at each other from two trampolines between which is a tank of water. (There is in fact a real martial art called "Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo".) Although "It's Your Funeral" was the eighth episode produced, and "Hammer Into Anvil" the twelfth, some of the kosho footage from the latter episode appears in the previous one, as despite the quick edits some shots of Number Six's opponent are clearly that of Number Fourteen, played by Basil Hoskins.
  • Among the other records seen in the shop are Four Saints in Three Acts, an opera written by American composer Virgil Thomson in the 1920s for an all black cast (ground breaking at the time); Beyond the Sea by Frank Chacksfield, an English big band & easy listening conductor; and a record by Annie Fischer, a Hungarian-Jewish classical pianist who fled to Sweden to escape the Nazis.
  • One of Number Six's provocations is publishing a Spanish quotation from Don Quixote. He says, Y mas mal in Aldea que se suena, but the actual quote from Cervantes is, Hay mas mal en el aldehuela que se suena ["There is more evil in the little village than is heard"]. The newspaper saleswoman, however, reading the quotation that Six has written on a slip of paper, begins with "Hay," and charges him for nine words, the length of the correct Spanish quotation.


  • Fairclough, Robert (ed.). The Prisoner: The Original Scripts. vol. 2. foreword by Roger Parkes. Reynolds & Hearn. ISBN 978-1-903111-81-9. OCLC 61145235. – script of episode


  1. Pixley, Andrew (2007). The Prisoner: A Complete Production Guide. Network Distributing. p. 205.
  2. "Hammer into Anvil". anorakzone.com. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  3. Davies, Steven Paul (2007). The Prisoner Handbook. Pan. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-230-53028-7.
Last produced:
"A. B. and C."
The Prisoner episodes Next produced:
"Many Happy Returns"
Last transmitted:
Next transmitted:
"It's Your Funeral"
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