THE PRISONER has been described as the greatest TV programme of them all. A big statement, but not one to be dismissed out of hand. Patrick McGoohan had really been a prisoner of DANGERMAN. This was a long-running successful series from the early to mid-'60s. It was felt that the Prisoner was really the John Drake character from DANGERMAN. Though under copyright the name could not be used in THE PRISONER, so No. 6 emerged, though the numbers idea was well-suited anyway to the idea of the series.
THE PRISONER was the ultimate protest series, and has never seemed more appropriate to the times we live in than today.. To make a protest against bureaucrats entertaining was not the show's smallest achievement. Especially over 17 episodes.
Some of the most evocative images came by accident. ROVER was really a meteorological balloon, after the more sophisticated deadly guardian of potential village escapees was not ready in time when production was due to start. McGoohan happened to see one in the sky, consulted with production manager, Bernard Williams, and the rest was...
The sets were another notable feature. Still looking hi-tech in a cold, but colourful way. A psychologically calm-inducing torture room would sum up the office of No. 2. The computerised Control Room with all-seeing eye was the Orwellian nightmare in vision.
In contrast there were the simplistic taxis and the unisex horizontally-striped tops, and canvas shoes. The penny farthing bicycle image at the end of each episode summed up a place that despite its exotic technology was really living in a brutal, dominating past.
Epic episodes included ARRIVAL, when No. 6 sets out his stall; SCHIZOID MAN, where No. 6 forces his double to crack; THE GENERAL, where No. 6 wrecks a computer by asking it, "Why?" HAMMER INTO ANVIL was the favourite of the underdog. Here, No. 6 shows that to deal with a bullying bureaucrat requires guile. You can't work on their soul, only their mind. Minus another No. 2. FALL OUT was the mysterious ending. McGoohan had said, "I wanted to have controversy, arguments, discussion - people waving fists..." Unfortunately for Pat, he, personally, got attacked at his Mill Hill home, and subsequently left for the U.S. The picture of the little butler, Angelo, being dragged across a busy London street by No. 6 was high comedy, as high as the dramatic statement of trying to find the boss, who is really oneself. 'All You Need Is Love' and Carmen Miranda featuring in the last episode summed up the quintessential eccentricity.
Filmed on 35mm film, in colour, THE PRISONER was Script Editor's George Markstein's creation, with McGoohan's "own ideas about life". The Italianite village in Portmeirion, Wales, was beautiful and deceptively serene for the horrors within. McGoohan again, "The Village is our little world. Big Brother is here."
- Paul Rance/booksmusicfilmstv.com
"Has one the right to tell a man what to think, how to behave, to coerce others? Has one the right to be an individual?" - PATRICK McGOOHAN.
"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own." - No. 6.
"The Prisoner captured its time perfectly - it took the restlessness of the late '60s and turned its distaste for authority into a work of art."
Some more Prisoner Facts
THE PRISONER NUMBER TWOs (episodes in which they appeared are in brackets)
GUY DOLEMAN/GEORGE BAKER (1)
PRISONER GLAMOUR GIRLS INCLUDED
Be Seeing These - fine Prisoner sites
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