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Val Lehman in the title sequence for Prisoner (screen cap)
form y separately published work icon Prisoner series - publisher   film/TV  
Alternative title: Cell Block H; Prisoner: Cell Block H
Issue Details: First known date: 1979... 1979 Prisoner
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Television series.

Prisoner told stories of the inmates of Wentworth Detention Centre, a women's prison. The show had its roots in the similar UK drama series Within These Walls, but presented storylines with a much harder and sometimes controversial edge, including themes such as lesbianism, murder, and drugs.

Key characters in the series included Bea Smith (aka Queen Bea), who ran things from the prisoners' side, and prison guards Joan 'The Freak' Ferguson and Vera 'Vinegar Tits' Bennett. Other inmates included the elderly Lizzie Birdsworth and lesbian Franky Doyle.


  • The series is known as Prisoner: Cell Block H outside Australia, due to the similarity of the title to that of Patrick McGoohan's television series The Prisoner.

  • Award-winning and individually published episodes in this series will be included on AustLit.

    Content indexing in process.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

First known date: 1979

Works about this Work

As Wentworth Slips Quietly Onto the ABC, the Series Still Asks Tough Questions about Gender Politics Sue Turnbull , 2018 single work column
— Appears in: The Conversation , 18 April 2018;

'In early March, the ABC issued a press release announcing that the “multi-award-winning Australian drama Wentworth” would make its free to air television debut on April 12. “This ground-breaking and much acclaimed Foxtel drama”, it went on, has not only been enormously popular “worldwide”, but also garnered a swag of nominations and awards, including one from the Monte Carlo TV festival. Somehow overseas recognition still seems to count for so much more when it comes to assessing the value and impact of Australian screen productions.' 

Prisoner Reborn Locks in a Stylised Vision Graeme Blundell , 2016 single work column
— Appears in: The Australian , 15 April 2016; (p. 17)
Strindberg for Breakfast : Elspeth Ballantyne Anne Pender , 2016 single work biography
— Appears in: Players : Australian Actors on Stage, Television and Film 2016;
'Elspeth Ballantyne grew up in a household that revolved around theatre, with both her parents involved in amateur theatre groups. At meal times her father, Colin, would lecture his small children on Jonson, Ibsen, Chekhov, Strindberg and Shakespeare. Colin was away for the first three years of Elspeth’s life. When he came back from his war service, he resumed his day job as a photographer and his evenings in the theatre. He hoped that each of his three children would also share his passion for drama and for the classics. At this time there was no permanent professional theatre in Adelaide and the Ballantynes put all their energy into developing theatre in their home state in amateur companies. Later Colin Ballantyne founded the State Theatre Company of South Australia. Elspeth’s mother Gwenneth (Richmond) was a drama teacher and amateur theatre actor and like Colin devoted much of her time to theatrical ventures.' (Introduction)
New Faces Doing Time on Inside Holly Byrnes , 2013 single work column
— Appears in: The Courier-Mail , 1 March 2013; (p. 10)
New Queen Bea is Back on the Inside Matt Buchanan , Scott Ellis , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 4 October 2012; (p. 20)
y separately published work icon Super Aussie Soaps : Behind the Scenes of Australia's Best Loved TV Shows Andrew Mercado , North Melbourne : Pluto Press , 2004 Z1511282 2004 single work criticism

The definitive history of Australian TV soaps, Super Aussie Soaps examines Australian television serials, in chronological order from 1958 to the early 2000s. Among the series presented are Bellbird, Number 96, The Sullivans, Prisoner, Sons and Daughters, Neighbours and Home and Away.

y separately published work icon Moran's Guide to Australian TV Series Albert Moran , Peter Pinne , North Ryde : Australian Film Television and Radio School , 1993 Z1511317 1993 single work criticism An in-depth history of Australian television series from 1956-1993.
y separately published work icon Australian Television : A Geneology of Great Moments Alan McKee , South Melbourne : Oxford University Press , 2001 Z1632922 2001 single work criticism (taught in 1 units)

Alan McKee examines some key moments in Australian television history, drawing on extensive contemporary evidence as well as presenting detailed analysis of the programs themselves.

Bad Girls Broke the Shackles Michael Idato , 2009 single work column
— Appears in: The Sydney Morning Herald , 16 February 2009;
Top-Dog Bea's Back in the Clink Greg Hassall , 2012 single work column
— Appears in: The Sun-Herald , 4 March 2012; (p. 3)
Last amended 4 Apr 2014 09:37:12