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The Prisoner

patrick-mcgoohan copy.jpgI am not a number. I am a free man

Patrick McGoohan not only starred as Number Six, the leading role in The Prisoner, he was also the creator and driving force behind the 17 episode series. The series was financed by ITC Entertainment with David Tomblin as the Producer and George Markstein as script editor.

Many well known actors had guest roles in the series: Leo McKern, Peter Bowles, Eric Portman, Patrick Cargill, Mary Morris, Paul Eddington and Donald Sinden to name but a few.

arrival.jpgIt was probably one of the most influential pieces of televison of the 1960s not only in the UK and USA but also in France, Australia and many other countries. Even The Beatles were fans. Its cult status was confirmed with the establishment in the 1970s of the official Prisoner Appreciation Society, Six of One.

Episode Titles (In telecast order)

  1. Arrival
  2. The Chimes of Big Ben
  3. A.B. and C.
  4. Free For All
  5. The Schizoid Man
  6. The General
  7. Many Happy Returns
  8. Dance of the Dead
  9. Checkmate
  10. Hammer into Anvil
  11. It's Your Funeral
  12. A Change of Mind
  13. Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling
  14. Living in Harmony
  15. The Girl Who Was Death
  16. Once Upon a Time
  17. Fall Out

800_prisoner_blu-ray2.jpgIn the opening sequence of the Prisoner we see Patrick McGoohan as he angrily resigns his top secret government position and then drives through London under a stormy sky. He gets home, packs a bag, some holiday brochures fall out.

A white gas hisses through the keyhole and he falls unconscious. He awakes in an identical room but through the window sees a strange village surrounded by sea and mountains. Everything looks cheerful and bright, with gaily dressed people and quaint, turreted buildings. But the village has a sinister purpose; its population are prisoners, identified only by a number, from whom information is required.

There is no escape. The prisoners have had all desire to escape taken away, either by their purposeless existence, brainwashing or surgery. Number 6 is the only one with the will to escape, the one who refuses to be broken: "I am not a number; I am a free man".

The series asks more questions than it answers. Why is Number 6 being held? Why did he resign? Who is Number 6? Who are his jailers? Who is Number 1? The village is run by Number 2 whose identity changes from episode to episode.

The series is rich in imagery and visual impact. The surreal architecture of the village with its Mediterranean atmosphere coupled with the high-tech interiors, tannoys, surveillance cameras and piped music create a bizarre combination. There is great attention to detail throughout with no item too large or small to receive the Prisoner stamp, from steet signs to cans of food to village credit cards, Mini Moke taxis and staff uniforms. Large and menacing balloons (occasionally referred to as 'Rover') patrol the perimiter. A dwarf, mute butler opens the door to No 2's Green Dome.

Enigmatic to the end, the last episode caused ITV's telephone lines to be blocked by the many millions of viewers who called in desperate for an explanation. Even though the series is close to 50 years old, there are new viewers who may not have seen it before and we do not wish to spoil it by revealing the ending here. Many diverse and creative conclusions have been drawn from the series such as was Number 6 a victim of a nervous breakdown, or is he, like us, a prisoner of ourselves? Was this an allegorical conundrum or a statement about personal freedom, democracy and social engineering?


Fancy becoming a member of the Prisoner Society Six of One? Click on the Six of One link to take you to their new look website, which has details about becoming a member and interesting information about the series. Or find the Six of One Society on their Facebook page 

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