The Prisoner (UK)

ITV (ended 1968)



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The Prisoner (UK)

Show Summary

'The Prisoner' is about a man who is kidnapped from his London home, and wakes up in a strange Village, where he is known only by the name Number Six. Various Village Officers-in-Charge, always referred to as Number Two, set about trying to find out why Number Six resigned his job as a secret agent. Number Six is interrogated, brainwashed, and manipulated by the strange powers behind the mysterious Village. This intriguing series first went to air in 1968. It was ahead of its time then, and continues to intrigue today. It was very much the brain-child of Patrick McGoohan, who not only starred as Number Six, but was also instrumental in bringing the series to fruition.

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    • The Island is the original Hotel California - you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

      Unique: No other show in the history of television has taken as many chances and dared to be as different as The Prisoner. From the setting, to the art direction, wardrobe and ambience of the show, nothing was normal, nothing was common, absolutely nothing turned up on The Island that we would have expected to see in real life. Cutting edge: From camera angles to way ahead-of-its-time technology, television audiences were exposed to the future in 1967! With this show as a blueprint, why didn't we see more like it - more inventive direction and writing - in the years that followed? Viewers just weren't ready for it.

      Compelling: Who could resist tuning in next week to find out if poor #6 would ever find any answers, or would ever find a way off the Island? Lost, shmost, I don't see any great big white scary bouncy ball coming after the castaways - that thing freaked me out as a child! Who needs CGI when filmmakers can make a white round thing actually lurk and look threatening?

      Patrick McGoohan is an individual - and The Prisoner will stand for a long time.moreless
    • Off the wall but great!

      Since I am already a Patrick McGoohan fan, I knew The Prisoner would be great. Leaving his British spy role in Danger Man, McGoohan helped develop and starred in the title role of the Prisoner. He is a former spy who has been kidnapped and held prisoner on an undisclosed island. The purpose for kidnapping him is to retrieve vital information he has. We never discover his real name. He is simply called "Number 6."

      The entire series only lasts for 17 episodes, but it is intriguing from start to finish. The basic story-line of the series is Number 6 trying to escape the island and return to freedom. And yes, the final episode does answer some of the questions that viewers have throughout the series. I'm always amazed at how each episode ends, usually with Number 6 outwitting his captors but not escaping the island. If you like avant-garde shows, this is one you won't want to miss.moreless
    • A die for show

      One of the best tv shows ever ! I watched this show as a little child, I was affraid but the episodes where so good so I couldn't stop watching. I rediscovered the show ten years after on video tapes, and the feeling was the same, time altered nothing. This show was a real philosophical one, also a political one : how to be free in modern society ? What really means to get and keep the power ? Is liberty of thinking still possible ? Could we possibly trust someone or something. No more to say, watch it please.moreless
    • Kafkaesque drama of a man with acess to his nation's intelligence secrets who, after resigning his post in anger is kidnapped and taken to a mysterious village where he is repeatedly asked to give information, particularly the reason for his resignation.moreless

      A show of unusually high technical quality for its time, particularly for British independent television. Created by it's starring actor, Patrick McGoohan, who had previously starred in the series Secret Agent/Danger Man as the morally responsible intelligence officer John Drake, The Prisoner was a close-ended series each episode dealing with a moral or ethical quandary while detailing the protagonists latest attempt to escape or to beat his nemesis du jour. One of the pleasures of the show was its use of gimmicks and inside jokes, some of which could not be appreciated until the introduction of home video more than a decade after the show aired. Among these are that almost no characters were referred to by name but by number (the central charactor was "Number 6"), a takeoff on the hokey theme song for Secret Agent with its refrain "They've given you a number, and taken 'way your name." Others include a regular change of the actors who portrayed the arch nemesis, Number 2, as each number 2 was defeated by number 6. And veiwers were soon to love "Rover", a monstrous security robot that sometimes killed escapees. A remake of the series is underway: as usual with such I simply ask why?moreless
    • Very old, but classy.

      This has become by far my favorite series of all time, so much so I have given up watching television altogether and turned to DVD's instead. That's not to say it's the best show ever, but it's one of those things you can watch as fluff action-adventure entertainment one day, or chew down to its bones, if you like, the next. That is, it doesn't require intelligence and concentration or an easy day at the office to enjoy, but if you've read a few books or have philosophical leanings you can amuse yourself by wringing quite a bit out of it.

      On that note, it's especially fun to watch this series in conjunction with Danger Man/ Secret Agent. Although it isn't uncommon to have the same actors work together on different series, there is a town full of spies in DM/SA

      referred to as the Village in the episode "Colony Three" which is the center of a debate on whether Number 6 and John Drake are the same. (McGoohan categorically denies this, but Markstein says it's true. Perhaps there is a legal hurdle involved? We will probably never get that information.)

      I recommend watching them in order, so you can see Number 6 gradually abandon his open desperation and anger ("Arrival" to "The Chimes of Big Ben") for a cool and calculated needling of the system from within ("A, B and C" to "Hammer Into Anvil"). They try drugs, brainwashing, torture, virtual reality, letting him escape, and even babysitting to get him to talk. Each episode will appeal to someone different, some funny, some aggravating, but they all fit together by "Fall Out"; I have never met anyone who was not surprised at the final episode. It's truly extraordinary!

      You will find references to the Prisoner are made constantly in other shows and movies, especially Sci Fi. The character Bester uses the Village greeting on Babylon 5; I have seen Village interrogation methods on the Pretender, John Doe and Farscape (whose leading man has an acting style similar to McGoohan's and a character similar to Number 6, IMHO, especially if you watch "A, B and C"); Number 2's trademark sphere chair is used on everything from Austin Powers to ads for American Idol.

      The Village itself has appeared in tribute episodes of the Invisible Man and, of all things, the Simpsons ("The Computer Wore Menace Shoes"). Rover has actually appeared on the Simpsons twice!

      I believe it's a classic that shouldn't be missed for anyone who ever feels trapped by rules that make little sense. If you like quoting Brazil and Office Space you'll find plenty of quotes to add to your collection here. My friends and I have even started referring to each other by number at work!moreless

    More Info About This Show


    British TV, Espionage, parallel worlds, paranoia, keeping secrets