Number Six (Patrick McGoohan) and the rest of the Villagers are subjected to a mind-altering technology called Speed Learn, which can teach a three-year university course on a TV screen in three minutes. It was invented by a Villager called The Professor (Peter Howell), who is caught trying to escape the Village. Number Six finds the Professor’s tape-recorder on the beach and hides it. He sees the Professor instill a detailed program called European History Since Napoleon into numerous minds. This is apparently supported by someone called the General. When Number Two (Colin Gordon again) cannot find the tape-recording, he assumes that Number Six has it. He quizzes Six on European History and Six is surprised to learn that he is now an expert on the subject.
After Number Two leaves, Six returns to the beach, only to find that Number Twelve (John Castle) has the tape. Twelve agrees to help Six, but he is close to Number Two and may be the enemy. On the tape, the Professor says Speed Learn is an abomination and the General must be destroyed. Number Six discusses art with the Professor’s Wife (Betty McDowall), who claims that she and the General came to the Village voluntarily. Six draws her in a general’s uniform and she angrily tears the sketch in two. In her lodging, Six finds busts of himself and Number Two and smashes a life-size effigy of the Professor in his sickbed, revealing that he is hidden somewhere.
Number Six is, of course, worried that Speed Learn can be used for mind-control. Number Twelve gives him passes and a pen that can plant the tape of the Professor’s confession. Six tries to insert his message into the next Speed lesson, but he is caught. He is interrogated but refuses to rat out Number Twelve. Number Two reveals to him that the General is really a sophisticated computer which can answer any question put to it. Six says that there is a question the General cannot answer. Number Two arrogantly accepts the challenge and when Six types in four characters, the computer begins to smoke and sputter as if Captain Kirk had got to it. Number Twelve tries to rescue the Professor and both of them are killed in the explosion. When a horrified Number Two asks what the question was, Six says, “Why?”
The episode was written by Lewis Greifer under the name Joshua Adam and directed by Peter Graham Scott. The music during the scene with Number Six, Number Two, and the Professor’s Wife was some of the strangest in the series. The pass machine is a tiny box from which a hand comes out to grab the token placed in it, often called a Lurch Box in reference to the Addams Family series. When this episode was aired before A, B, and C, it was used to explain why Colin Gordon’s Number Two was so afraid of Number One’s wrath; when it was aired afterward, the incidents in the other episode were used to explain Number Two’s manic and desperate nature in this one. Let’s face it: The Prisoner is weird and it doesn’t really matter much in what order you see it.