The Prisoner (1967-1968)
I was a great fan of Patrick McGoohan. I’d watched him as John Drake in Danger Man (a British B&W TV show from ITV). When this new show came out, I watched it, too. But it was too different to really enjoy properly. Too psychedelic. (Or was that The Avengers?)
“I am not a number, I am a free man.”
Sure you are…
I didn’t know about MK-Ultra in those days. Now I can see that this show tried to open our eyes to what was going on behind the scenes during that time period. We never knew. (There are none so blind as those who will not see.)
Portmeirion is a real village. It is still there, but now seen mostly as a tourist attraction. The look and layout of the buildings give it an unreal appearance. It’s perfect as a psychiatric hospital/prison location. And, seemingly, there’s no escape from it.
From Number Six to Number One
“A high-ranking but unnamed Agent in the British Government resigns from his job/post and leaves for a holiday. While packing he is gassed and is taken to a beautiful but deadly prison known only as “The Village” where people are taken, given a Number to be called by and kept there for the rest of their lives if they don’t tell No. 2 (the deputy head of “The Village”) the information they are captured for. Escape is nearly impossible as “The Village” has amazing but deadly weapons to use if anybody tries to escape. The Agent is given the title of “No. 6” but he adopts the name of “The Prisoner”. The series tells of his attempts to resist the plots of each No. 2 (who is replaced with another if an attempt on No. 6 fails) to get his information and against any attempt to disrupt the nearly peaceful running of the “The Village”. The Village is determined to crack The Prisoner by attempting to get the answer to why he resigned from his job/post. As time goes on, two questions plague The Prisoner’s mind – How can he escape and who is the real leader of the Village – the mysterious No. 1?.”
(plot summary from IMDb)
What makes this show ultimately fascinating is the unspoken question: “Is The Prisoner actually No. 1?” That means that he did this to himself to see if the mind-control methods really work, and to weed out ineffective subordinates. (I may have borrowed this idea from others’ speculations, but it seems to me to be the only thing that works.)
“According to script editor and co-creator George Markstein, Number Six resigned from his position after discovering files indicating the existence of the Village. The Village was an idea Number Six had submitted to his superiors many years before but had since decided was monstrously inhumane.” (from IMDb)
Number 6: Where am I?
Number Two: In the village.
Number 6: What do you want?
Number Two: Information.
Number 6: Whose side are you on?
Number Two: That would be telling. We want information… information… information!
Number 6: You won’t get it!
Number Two: By hook or by crook, we will.
Number 6: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Number 6: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are[,] Number Six.
Number 6: I am not a number; I AM A FREE MAN!
Number Two: [laughter]