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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"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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The black and white head shot of Patrick McGoohan, which showed him smiling slightly and wearing a black tie and a grey suit, that was seen in the opening credits and in such episodes as "Free for All" and "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling", is a promotional photograph from McGoohan's earlier series, Secret Agent (1964). See more »
[about The Prisoner]
He's an individual, and they're always trying.
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Most (but not all) episodes begin with a recap taken from the first episode of Number Six waking in his "new home" and looking out of his window at the Village. This is followed by a standard dialogue between him and Number Two (i.e. "Where am I?" "In the Village.") which plays out under the episode credits. In most episodes, the actor playing Number Two recites the lines during this sequence, but in some episodes an uncredited male actor does the chore. The sequence is altered on two notable occasions: The Number Two played by Colin Gordon in two episodes introduces himself as "I am Number Two" instead of "The New Number Two" as all other actors do. In the episode "Many Happy Returns" the face of that week's Number Two is not revealed during the sequence in order to preserve the element of surprise. See more »
I find more in it, and it in more, every time I see it....
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!
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