ABORTIONAbortion is one of the remaining taboos in soaps: although a woman may admit to having had an abortion in the past, it is very rare to see a current character decide to have an abortion and go through with it. Prisoner is no exception. Although we see Karen Travers' flashback to her abortion in the very first episode, it turns out she was forced to have it by her husband (and indeed the writers made her Catholic just to make this seem even more cruel). Melinda Crosse asks Greg to arrange an abortion for her, after using her pregnancy as a mitigating factor to avoid a heavier sentence (53). Meg is advised to have an abortion on medical grounds when she is pregnant after being raped (506): she hesitates even though Joyce Barry reveals that she had an abortion herself (508), but the writers absolve her of the need to make a final decision by ending her pregnancy in an operation necessary to remove a tumour (510). Lexie Patterson makes up her mind to have an abortion (609) after becoming pregnant deliberately to afford herself some protection against Lou Kelly, though this is then used a reason for her mother Jessie to tell her the real story of her own parentage to persuade her to go ahead with the pregancy.
ACCENTSSome of the more eccentric accents attempted by Prisoner actors include versions of Yorkshire, somewhere near Yorkshire, Anglo-Irish and Anglo-Irish-American, Swedish.
Judy's attempt at Irish while disguised as a policewoman in (131)-(132) is also worth a mention in this context. Dennis Cruickshank's accent is authentic, but is certainly not a Barnsley accent as it is supposed to be. To the UK ear it sounds further north than that - say, Middlesborough?
ARTISTIC TYPESMembers of the Wentworth School of Post-Impressionism are:-
Kerry Vincent and Sam Greenway
BAASTARDS Among the minor characters there are some who are not very nice people at all.
Here is one, here is another and here is a third.
BAD HAIR DAYSSome days your hair doesn't look right no matter what you do. But think yourself lucky you aren't Mouse Trapp, Wendy Stone, or of course... Bobbie Mitchell, as their hair always looks disastrous.
Other hair disasters: Pixie's "Martian" red hair (382); Marlene's pink hair (532).
The main other prison in the series apart from Wentworth. It was even seen for a few episodes when Bea was transferred there between (196) and (198). Its security status is supposed to be lower than Wentworth's, and it is noticeable how the references to it tail off near the end of the series as Blackmoor becomes the favoured destination for anyone who needs to be transferred out. I have listed the main references to Barnhurst in the series - including transfers in and out.
(65) Two prisoners transferred from Barnhurst including Chrissie. The Governor at the time was male, as Chrissie tells Lizzie and Doreen
(87) Chrissie suggests the women start a newspaper like the one at Barnhurst.
(112) Kerry Vincent is transferred from Barnhurst
(132) Noeline Burke transferred to Barnhurst, which is described as a "country prison"
(137) Agnes Forster points out the advert for Governorship of Barnhurst to Jim Fletcher
(155) Sarah Forrest admits escaping from Barnhurst to escape the attentions of a lesbian offficer there.
(158) Tracey Morris is transferred to Barnhurst.
(179) Evelyn Randall is supposed to be transferred to Barnhurst but a booby trap gets her first.
(188) Mick O'Brien is not allowed to see Chrissie since he's an ex inmate of Barnhurst. It is implied more than once that Barnhurst is a mixed prison.
(196) Bea is transferred by force to Barnhurst and but is sent back again in (198), escaping when the van runs off the road.
(203) Vera promises to transfer Margo is return for evidence that Bea's amnesia is faked. Terry Harrison points out it's medium security and the Governor has to agree to the transfer. Erica doesn't agree.
(214) Vera wants Kathy Hall transferred to Barnhurst
(219) Vera sees Mr Douglas about her application for Governorship of Barnhurst
(222) Vera appointed to Governorship of Barnhurst
(235) Sandy Edwards knows of Bea from her time in Barnhurst
(241) The Braille machine is transferred to Barnhurst
(245) Marie Winter transferred from Barnhurst
(246) Judy and Doreen transferred to Barnhurst as punishment for forging officers rosters
(251) Judy returns from Barnhurst to await a parole report
(253) Lizzie finds out that Doreen has also been returned to the infirmary after being bashed by Janie
(269) After a suggestion from Colleen, the van arrives to transfer Kate to Barnhurst but Marie is in there too. Marie does go, but Kate refuses.
(284) Carol and Margo transferred to Barnhurst.
(299) Erica mentions speaking to Vera about the drugs problem at Barnhurst.
(303) Hannah Simpson transferred to Barnhurst.
(307) Judy finds Margo at the halfway house after she's escaped from Barnhurst.
(338) Chrissie transferred to Barnhurst.
(372) Tracey Belman not returned to WDC after trial but sent to Barnhurst.
(397) Helen Smart sentenced to three years and sent to Barnhurst.
(400) Bea transferred to Barnhurst.
(401) Cass is transferred from Barnhurst after killing an officer.
(416) Brenda Hewitt transferred to Barnhurst.
(419) Helen is transferred back from Barnhurst after assaulting an officer who tried it on with her, escorted by unnamed officer played by Dorothy Cutts who later becomes Officer Slattery.
(441) Sonia and Bobbie transferred to Barnhurst but kidnapped on the way.
(442) Margo transferred from Barnhurst.
(461) Marie Winter transferred from Barnhurst.
(514) Ettie Parslow transferred from Barnhurst.
(536) Ann gets a phone call about a fire at Barnhurst - Vera is in hospital and Bea died.
(537) Eight women transferred from Barnhurst after the fire, though only five of them end up in H block: Willie, May, Nora, Julie and Daphne.
(582) May and Willie transferred to Barnhurst - their escape is arranged on the way.
(628) Julie is transferred to Barnhurst after her marriage to Steve Ryan.
(674) Joan tries to have Meg and Joyce moved to Barnhurst.
(686) Spider Simpson is transferred to Barnhurst.
BASHINGS AND BATTLESDue to the sensitive nature of this topic, no-one has yet been able to find the time to write anything on it. But I understand that someone is working on it and an entry will appear in due course.
BENT SCREWSThe officers at Wentworth are mostly professional and above board: even Vera Bennett doesn't really seem to deserve the title "bent screw". Joan Ferguson is the best example of how deviousness can advance and prolong your career, but for real nastiness Jock Stewart and Len Murphy have her beat.
BLACKMOORAlias "the Black Hole" and when we see it when Rita is transferred there (665)-(667) it is a decaying Victorian-era buiding. Which makes it even odder that on its first mention in (439) Ann describes it as a "new" prison. Other mentions:-
Margo is transferred to Blackmoor (448)
Joan suggests transferring Marie Winter to Blackmoor (468)
Officers at Barnhurst, Woodridge and Blackmoor join the officers' strike (475)
The women hear Marie Winter has been recaptured and sent to Blackmoor. Joan contacts her friend Cynthia to "have a word" with Marie (479)
Meg tells Ann about Joan's friend Cynthia Drewin, now at Blackmoor. (481)
Reb is sent to Blackmoor (506)
Lou is threatened with Blackmoor (518)
Lou refers to "Blackmoor, where there's no fellahs", but it is a mixed prison when Rita goes there later (522).
Joan contacts Cynthia to get her to heavy Reb at Blackmoor (525)
Ann threatens to send Myra to Blackmoor (544)
Inspector Grace tells Ann that Ruth Ballinger has been sent to Blackmoor (553)
Joan contacts Cynthia to get her to heavy Ruth at Blackmoor (554)
Reb is transferred from Blackmoor (577)
Joan humiliates Lou and threatens to send her to Blackmoor and have her friend Cynthia to look after her (605)
Ann warns Rita she is in danger of being sent to Blackmoor (664)
Women from Blackmoor are transferred to Wentworth after Rita burns it down (668)
BODY ODOURNot exactly coming up smelling of roses are:-
Footy Parsons and Sheila Brady.
BODY SEARCHESOne of Joan Ferguson's trademarks is supposed to be the black leather gloves she pulls on to give a body search and the first prisoner to get one is Doreen Burns in (287). Surprisingly perhaps, there seems to be only a few other examples: one other example: Paddy Lawson in (323).
BOMBSThe first instance was the bomb made by Geoff Butler to kill Jim Fletcher, but which ends up killing his wife and two sons (109). This situation is mirrored later in the death of Colleen Powell's family in a car bomb intended to kill Rick Manning (433). A third bomb intended to kill an officer is the car bomb which ends up killing one of Joan Ferguson's neighbours (555). Colleen has more than her fair share of experiences with explosives: when the women cross Lionel Fellowes a phony building inspector ties her up in the boiler room with a time bomb (386) and in the same incident, Bea is trapped in solitary with another bomb wired to the security gate which goes off killing a bomb squad officer. Ann and Meg are kidnapped by Brian Lowe are tied up in a booby-trapped warehouse, which eventually explodes (500). There are also a couple of bomb scares: one during the dance marathon when a crank caller phones Wentworth (481) to say he has planted a bomb to protest over the "degradation" forced on the women (and he doesn't mean the silly plot line); another when the women humiliate Joan by planting false information in Nancy McCormack's diary that there will be an escape attempt by planting a bomb against the perimeter fence (630).
BRANDINGSA particularly blantant bit of recycling occurs in (518) when Myra and Geoff brand Frank Burke with a soldering iron for raping Pixie, just as Bea had branded Nola McKenzie with a soldering iron for killing Paddy Lawson (342). The dialogue ("This is for Paddy/Pixie") is echoed so the writer probably realised the parallel. The director undoubtedly did - it's Chris Adhead in both cases and the same camera angle (subjective shot from the brandee's point of view) is used in both scenes.
CELEBRITY INMATESSwapping their fame for fifteen minutes inside Wentworth are:-
Helen Masters, Camilla Wells and Leigh Templar
CELL BLOCK DThe other blocks of the prison are hardly ever seen, but sometimes alluded to when characters are consigned to them when all else fails, or from where shortterm newcomers may be recruited. Starting from or ending up in Block D are: Faye Quinn, Joyce Martin and Marge Briggs. Other blocks are also sometimes alluded to: Minnie Donovan is sent to Block B, and Spider Simpson is transferred from C block.
CHEAP REPRODUCTIONWhenever the props department were asked to furnish somewhere with a bit of class (or even somewhere a bit cheap aspiring to class) they almost always fell back on reproductions of the Old Masters. Unfortunately, they seem only to have had two or three to hand and so they pop up several times in some surprising locations...
The two favourites are undoubtedly Leonardo's "Portrait of Ginerva de 'Benci" and Vermeer's "The lacemaker", with another Vermeer substituting for it in one memorable location.
Portrait of Ginerva
de 'Benci (Leonardo)
The lacemaker (Vermeer)
The milkmaid (Vermeer)
We can see these three in various combinations over the years. For instance...
In episode (42) lining the implausibly shallow staircase leading down to Steve Wilson's office.
In the slightly less salubrious surroundings of Pearl's brothel, there's Ginerva on the wall between Pearl and Ros Coulson...
... and the Lacemaker can be glimpsed through the curtains out in the corridor.
Here Ginerva looks down from behind Ruth Ballinger's MFI bargain basement brass bedstead, joined this time by "The Milkmaid".
This picture on Ruth's other wall is more of a mystery. An art historian friend suggested it might be a Hogarth, but I've had no luck tracing anything that looks much like it.
However, Amy Ryan has one that is very like it indeed. I thought originally these were the same painting but I see now that they are not. Even the frames are somewhat similar, though. Notice incidentally how the picture has just been propped up on the mantlepiece, not hung properly.
CLASSICAL GASShowing the writers' apparent prejudice that a liking for classical music makes you wimpy, tedious and effete are:-
Ken Roberts, Ronnie Willis and Jenny Hartley
DEPARTMENT LACKEYSThe Men from the Department throughout the series are:- Ted Douglas, Arthur Richards, William Coleby, Andrew Fry, Geoffrey Chaucer, Mr Watkins and Mr Hudson.
DIRECTORSThere is an index to the credited directors of the series.
DOCTOR PATIENT RELATIONSHIPSThe use from the start of Prisoner of a plotline tracing the relationship between a prison doctor and an inmate was perhaps an example of the writers trying to relate Prisoner explicitly to some traditional soap plotlines to help ease in viewers who might otherwise find the whole thing too "gritty". The relationship of Karen Travers and Greg Miller lasted just over a year (longer than any of the other initial plot situations) and seems to have been a favourite with viewers. Perhaps it is not surprising that the writers harked back to it whenever things started to seem a bit shaky, though later versions of this plot situation were feeble imitations of what was already perilously close to "Mills & Boon" territory. Scott and Petra are drafted in during the dire period just before Bea leaves, and later on after the failed Barnhurst gang have mostly left, the sole survivor Julie Egbert is given romantic interest with doctor posing as handyman Steve Ryan.
DREAMS & HALLUCINATIONS
Some of the finest examples of Prisoner's directors overreaching themselves are their attempts to stage dreams or drug-induced hallucinations.
It is hard to decide between Joan's LSD-induced hanging fantasy (413) - director Ross Jennings - and Hannah's nightmare of Joan as a concentration camp guard (452) - director Kendal Flanagan: both are breathtakingly inappropriate to the context, and so wildly over-the-top that they almost look deliberately humourous.
Other less lurid examples: Mum's dream of Wentworth (5); Erica's nostalgic daydream of her relationship with Andrew Reynolds (136); Anne Griffin imagining a baby spinning inside the drier (163); Bea's fantasy of dancing cheek to cheek with Ken Pearce (191); Tracey Bellman's nightmare about her car accident (370); Marlene's dream of splitting her wedding dress (528); Myra's hallucinations after being drugged by Ruth Ballinger (543); David Adams dreams of Eve Wilder (580); Lou Kelly imagines a man attacking her with a chainsaw (610); Julie Egbert after being drugged by Kath Maxwell (625).
Denise Morgan (quoted in Hilary Kinglsey's book): "As the series progressed we introduced many subjects which were controversial, but I was always very cautious with drugs because I knew a lot of schoolkids were watching in Australia when it was seen at 8.30. Kids were mimicking the characters in school. I made Bea Smith very anti-drugs"
A tradition that was followed for most of the other top dogs too: Myra is even given a drug addicted daughter to give her a similar motivation to Bea. Rita's conversion from smuggling cocaine into prison to vehemently anti-drugs after reading one of Steve Ryan's leaflets (614) is perhaps the least convincing of all.
But even if there's a lot less drugs around than in a real prison, there's still quite a bit in Wentworth...
You could try the following if you need a hit:- Erica's niece Barbara Davidson; George Lucas; Sharon Gilmour; Tracey Morris; Marie Winter; Des Williams; Nola McKenzie; Maggie May Kennedy; Joan's niece Lucy Ferguson and her boyfriend Wayne; Sonia Stevens; Margo Gaffney; Reb Kean; Sam Greenway; Lou Kelly; Ruth Ballinger; Kath Maxwell; Janet Williams.
Pathetic junkie types include: Sara Hamilton; Donna Mason; Kay Desmond; Glynnis Ladd.
DRUGGING THE TEA URNThe first time this old staple occurs is when Ros Coulson drugs the officers to help Janet Dominguez' terrorist friends break into Wentworth. Evelyn Randall seems to be inspired by Lizzie telling her of Ros's action to poison Meg with pollen, though she may in this case poison the biscuits rather than the urn itself. Maybe it even inspires Joan Ferguson when she slips a mickey in the staff room urn to make things easier for Marie Winter's riot in (466)?