In the 1967/1968 TV series "The Prisoner", there is an "operations" room of sorts; it appears dome-shaped, and in the center is a rotating teeter-totter-like device with a man seated at each end looking into some sort of apparatus. The general purpose of the room seems to be concerned with observation of the village residents.

The control room with the device is shown here:

Picture of The Prisoner Control Room

My question is whether there is a specific canon explanation of the purpose and/or function of the teeter-totter device and the role of the men seated on it. From a detached perspective, it looks rather pointless and goofy the way it is moving around, but in-universe, it must have some serious and important function. I am wondering if the show writers actually defined its function or if the prop was built and used without any well-defined concept in mind.


If it turns out that it was built and placed on set just because it adds visual interest with no real thought to in-universe functionality, I would accept that as an answer over and above an attempted retroactive explanation. Given that the "Rover" just is without any supporting in-show explanation, and that the controllers/supervisors seem to be able to call up views of just about anywhere with seemingly invisible cameras at inconceivably high-def for late 1960s tech, I'm OK with stuff seemingly magical to "Number 6" as well as the show's audience of the time. I suppose what I am really looking for is the story of the device's creation, from a production perspective.

  • I upvoted because that is the kind of question I like. I think that it was just designed to look interesting, but we can hope that someone thought of a plausible in universe reason for it. And I am also glad to see a pictue of the operations room. Jan 13, 2021 at 18:52
  • According to my "head canon," they are using neutrino-based viewing devices. Neutrinos can easily penetrate even thick walls, so the fact that they are in an enclosed space is irrelevant.
    – Alex
    Jan 13, 2021 at 19:50
  • @M.A.Golding I'm hoping to see a genuine show writer's vision, if one existed, upon which the prop was constructed vs something plausible-sounding thought up after-the-fact..
    – Anthony X
    Jan 13, 2021 at 23:04

2 Answers 2


David Stimpson, who wrote a 496 page book on The Prisoner (Dec, 2018 : ISBN-10 : 1911537091), theorized in 2011 (and again in 2014) on his Prisoner blog, that the See-Saw device probably "helps prolong the two Observers attention to their monitors that bit longer."

Sources : David Stimpson Blog Post: Ups And Downs! 13 October 2011 - David Stimpson Blog Post: Ups And Downs 5 January 2014

While David Stipson is considered an authority on the series, his opinion on the saw-saw's intended use is speculative. Ultimately, the control room is not logical in design. The surreal and slightly bizarre set will probably remain forever open to interpretation.

  • 1
    I was looking for explanations that could be sourced to the show's creative staff - what was conceptualized about it when the prop was built.
    – Anthony X
    Jan 13, 2021 at 22:54

The function/purpose of the rotating teeter-totter is as follows: It is used as a surveillance device. As you see in the control room there is a map or illustration of the village. At either end there is a person who views or monitors the activities of the prisoners in the Village. The corresponding 2 back-to-back cameras are located at a tower in the center of the village.

The cameras rotate and move up and down with respect to the movements of the teeter-totter. This is done to prevent the persons on the teeter-totter from developing motion sickness.

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