After resigning, a secret agent is abducted and taken to what looks like an idyllic village, but is really a bizarre prison. His warders demand information. He gives them nothing, but only tries to escape.
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Marvin LaRoy Sanders
"The Prisoner" is a unique piece of television. It addresses issues such as personal identity and freedom, democracy, education, scientific progress, art and technology, while still remaining an entertaining drama series. Over seventeen episodes we witness a war of attrition between the faceless forces behind 'The Village' (a Kafkaesque community somewhere between Butlins and Alcatraz) and its most strong willed inmate, No. 6. who struggles ceaselessly to assert his individuality while plotting to escape from his captors. Written by
Stuart Berwick <email@example.com>
Patrick McGoohan would have liked to limit the programme to seven episodes, but there was no chance that ITC executive Sir Lew Grade would back such a short run, so he reluctantly agreed to make two "series" of thirteen each. The first was to end with "Degree Absolute" (later re-titled "Once Upon A Time", when it was decided to make it the first half of a two-part finale). When the point in time came when the entire run was supposed to be in the can and only the first thirteen episodes actually were, Grade pulled the plug (or, according to some, McGoohan told him that the premise wouldn't yield another thirteen stories). Eventually, Grade was convinced to allow four more episodes to be made, including a finale, but with the proviso that production continue uninterrupted. Many of the crew were committed to other projects (script editor George Markstein's departure is attributed to a falling out with McGoohan, but as he left at the exact same time as all the others, this is debatable), including McGoohan himself, who co-starred in the Hollywood movie, Ice Station Zebra (1968). For filming to be able to continue in his absence, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling", with The Prisoner's mind transferred to another man's body, was concocted, and replacements for departed crew members were found. After the star returned from America, shot his ending speech and a few insert shots for "Darling," and the episodes "Living In Harmony" and "The Girl Who Was Death," he then confessed to Grade that he had no ideas for the finish (he knew only that he wanted no conventional "James Bond" type finale, such as one suggestion, allegedly from Markstein before he quit, that Number One turn out to be The Butler). Grade replied that the actor was obligated to come up with something. McGoohan locked himself away for most of the next week and wrote, "Fall Out" while the two episodes from the abandoned final season of "Danger Man" ("Koroshi" and "Shinda Shima") later reedited into a feature film, Koroshi (1968) preempted "The Prisoner" for two weeks to buy him the needed time. Actor Kenneth Griffith, who plays The President in the final episode, has repeatedly claimed that he was asked to write his own speech (singular his). As the character talks only in speeches, this is less than clear, but at least Griffith specified that his point was how pressed for time McGoohan was. See more »
During the intro sequence, when No 6 is getting out of his car, a trapped hair can be seen in the bottom left of the shot. See more »
Unlike me, many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment, and will die here like rotten cabbages.
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The only episode to feature a pre-credits sequence is "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling." See more »
The best non-comedic TV show I've ever seen, and certainly one of the most unique TV shows of any genre. A terrific blend of Kafka's drama/satire, fantasy, and spy action/thriller. There is also a healthy dose of humour in it, but nothing over-the-top like we have in today's TV shows. Although it consists of 17 episodes, I would consider the first 12 to be the core of the series. After those 12 we have mostly filler episodes, like the dull one in the Wild West, or the one in which McGoohan barely even appears. The last two episodes, the less-than-grand double-episode finale, are a bit too abstract and quite tiresome at times even. From the last 5 episodes I would only name "The Girl Who Was Death" as being quite good.
The best/most fun episodes are "Arrival", "Dance of the Dead", "ABC", "The General", "A Change Of Mind", and "Hammer Into Anvil". From the first 12, I would only single out "Schizoid Man" as being much weaker than the others.
Several things went into making this show so much fun. First of all, the location, the Welsh village. Secondly, having McGoohan in the lead; I cannot possible imagine any other actor playing Number 6 in the excellent, off-the-wall yet controlled manner in which he plays him. McGoohan hits all the right notes; his performance is just as eccentric as it needs to be. (For the uninitiated, he was among the 2 or 3 main candidates to be the first James Bond, but refused the role.) Thirdly, the highly unusual, original scripts. Fourthly, the series was filmed in the mid-60s, and the visual quality of TV shows from that decade is superior to anything that came before or after. And fifthly, the acting from all the others was on a high level.
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