The Prisoner was a controversial 1967 UK television series, starring Patrick McGoohan, created by McGoohan and George Markstein. McGoohan's leading character, Number Six, is a former secret agent of the British government. He is held prisoner in a small, isolated yet stylish resort town, The Village, in order to garner—"by hook or by crook"—his personal reasons for resigning the service. Throughout the series, Number 6
cunningly resists his captor's efforts to break his will, and meanwhile investigates the identity of Number 1 and executes various plans for escape. McGoohan also wrote and directed several episodes, often under a pseudonym.
With its 1960s counterculture message and themes, the programme has had a far-reaching effect upon science-fiction-fantasy-genre television, and popular culture in general. In 2002, the series won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. In 2005, readers of SFX magazine awarded the series fifth place in a poll of fantasy television programmes. Later the same year, it was revealed that Granada Productions were planning on mounting a remake for the Sky One channel, which will take "liberties" with the original.
The series features striking and often surreal story lines, and themes include hypnosis, hallucinogenic drug experiences, identity theft, mind control and dream manipulation.
Though 17 episodes were made, McGoohan originally intended to shoot just seven. The network wanted a full season of 26 episodes, and 17 was decided upon as a compromise. There is debate as to whether the series ended by mutual agreement or cancellation. According to The Prisoner: The Official Companion to the Classic TV Series by Robert Fairclough, the series was indeed cancelled, forcing McGoohan to write the concluding episode "Fall Out" in only a few days.
As in Twin Peaks, the viewer sees much of the story from the protagonist's point of view, who often does not understand what is going on. In their attempts to understand, people started watching it compulsively. The final episode caused so much confusion that the television network was besieged by phone calls and McGoohan was even hounded at home by baffled viewers demanding explanations.
The opening and closing sequence
The trademark intro title sequence features Number 6 having a fierce argument with his superior and resigning. The hero then drives home in his Lotus Seven. Returning to his flat, he quickly packs his possessions, including photographs of a tropical white sand beach (a clue to his intended destination?). A hearse pulls up and a tall pallbearer approaches the front door. A white gas then floods the room through the keyhole, which renders Number 6 unconscious. The hero awakens in The Village, whose decor and people are of peculiar nautical style and bright colours.
The following dialogue exchange runs over the opening titles of most episodes. The questioner is Number 6 and the respondent is Number 2, the Village chairman (a role occupied by a different man or woman in almost every episode, as the reference to the "new Number 2" indicates):
Where am I?
In The Village.
What do you want?
Whose side are you on?
That would be telling.
We want information. Information. Information.
You won't get it.
By hook or by crook, we will.
Who are you?
The new Number 2.
Who is Number 1?
You are Number 6.
I am not a number — I am a free man!
(Laughter from Number 2.)
In some cases, the voice of Number 2 in the above exchange is provided by the actor playing the character in that particular episode. However, in several episodes a different voice is used although the image of the actor playing the role is still shown. In a couple of instances, an image of the Rover is shown instead of No. 2 in order to maintain the element of surprise as to the true identity of the character (most notably in the episode "Many Happy Returns"). A couple of intros also differ in that No. 2 says simply "I am Number Two" - this was used on "A, B & C", which featured Colin Gordon as No. 2 [which was originally intended to be screened after "The General"] for the second time - therefore, he was not the new No. 2.
At the close of each episode, an image of Number 6 appearing behind shutting bars serves as the episode's outro.
- From Wikipedia