The Prisoner: A general overview…
A man furiously tenders his resignation, is drugged , and wakes up in a strange and sinister place simply known as The Village. The man is numbered 6, and he is The Prisoner! *cue thunder and lightning*
Using hallucinogens, psychological conditioning, thought control, and a bevy of other coercive and experimental techniques, his “keepers” try to learn why he resigned. But while they devise schemes to break him, Number 6 plans his escape. But escape from what exactly?
The Prisoner is part sci-fi, part spy and psychological thriller, part adventure, part satire, part allegory, and altogether quite original. Symbolism, ambiguity, surrealism, existential angst, and garish costumes are some of the hallmarks of the series. Its seventeen episodes date back to the late 60’s, and whilst the plots were heavily influenced by the Cold war, its underlying themes remain relevant. It’s a very creative, symbolic, and timeless exploration of freedom and individuality; the struggles of one man against most oppressive authority, to be individual, whilst under strict surveillance. Sound familiar? Oh, did I mention that it’s also a lot of fun?
The Prisoner Motto:
“I am not a number, I am a free man!”
The Prisoner Creed:
“I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own!”
Pawns and Players:
No. 6 aka The Prisoner (Patrick McGoohan)
No. 2 (Leo McKern, but No. 2 changes frequently)
The Butler (Angelo Muscat)
The Supervisor (Peter Swanwick)
Dr. Schnipps & The President (Kenneth Griffith)
No. 48 (Alexis Kanner)
No. 58 (Rachel Herbert)
Sonia (Justine Lord)
Rover (I never thought a big bouncy ball could have such screen presence)
KAR 120C (the real driving force behind The Prisoner?)
Note: Some of these actors had more character “names” than I listed, and most are recurring characters
Frequently Asked Questions:
“Questions are a burden to others. Answers a prison for oneself” (old Village saying).
As you watch The Prisoner you’ll notice that many questions are posed, but few clear-cut answers are given. In fact, it’s most likely that you’ll have far more questions than answers by the end of it (even when they seemingly offer you some sort of an answer to a long-running question, you can still expect to be baffled by it). Much is left to the viewers’ individual interpretation, and this, I believe, is one of the reasons behind its lasting success and bona fide prime cult status. Several crucial questions are asked in this intro to each episode:
No. 6: Where am I?
No. 2: In the Village.
No. 6: What do you want?
No. 2: We want information.
No. 6: Whose side are you on?
No. 2: That would be telling. We want information, information, information.
No. 6: You won’t get it.
No. 2: By hook or by crook, we will.
No. 6: Who are you?
No. 2: The new Number 2.
No. 6: Who is Number 1?
No. 2: You are Number 6.
No. 6: I am not a number, I am a free man!
Where and what is The Village? Information for what purpose?
Who is Number one, and for that matter, who is Number 6?
While the prisoner’s number one question is “Who is Number one,” the major piece of information the “keepers” ask No. 6 is “Why did you resign?” Why did he resign? Why is it so important to them? And why does No. 6 under great duress refuse to answer? And who exactly are the “keepers” anyway? once again the show treats you as an individual by allowing you to draw your own conclusions..
But perhaps the most important question of all is “WHY?”* … Now that would be telling! … but, unfortunately, that’s one question that does not compute.
“He has revolted. Resisted. Fought. Held fast. Maintained. Destroyed resistance. Overcome coercion. The right to be person, someone or individual. We applaud his private war, and concede that despite materialistic efforts, he has survived intact and secure!” (The President in Fall Out)
“Freedom is myth.” (Patrick McGoohan)
Some DVD Info:
The Prisoner is available on DVD in A&E (US), Carlton (UK), and AV Channel (Australia) editions (as well as others).
I have found the A&E DVD “mega-set” listed at $85 (US)
-The Carlton box set for £49
-And the AVC 35th Anniversary box set (apparently the best) for $120 (Au)
This little Prisoner overview is copyright Greg “Logan” M.H.M. and should
not be distributed or reproduced without the author’s express permission.
Prisoner names, characters and everything else associated with
the series are the property of Carlton International.