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>
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 »
[about The Prisoner]
He's an individual, and they're always trying.
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The closing credits of all but one episode end with footage of "Rover" (the big white balloon) emerging from the sea. The final episode, "Fall Out," omits this footage. The credits of the "alternate" version of "Chimes of Big Ben" don't use this footage either; instead, they end with a crudely animated earth exploding as the word POP fills the screen. See more »
When it premiered in the US as a CBS summer series, no less than Isaac Asimov wrote an article in TV Guide praising it. So I was primed. "Arrival" was every bit at interesting as I expected, from the jazzy music and rapid-edited credit sequence all the way to that strange bicycle that assembled itself in the closing credits. The Village was beautiful and charming and hellish, with doors that open for you and mandatory classical music on the radio. McGoohan was perfect--he kept his cool but never wavered from his determination to find out who ran the show.
However, the idiots who ran my local CBS affiliate must have gotten calls from perplexed viewers. Next week, I was all set for episode two... and instead saw some crappy conventional syndicated spy show. Grrr. Since this was before cable, I never saw the rest of the series till PBS ran it.
It's hard to believe that any television network would agree to air something this wild. To this day, I can hear "I am not a number! I am a free man!" followed by maniacal laughter....
I loved the humor, too. One time Number Six had a double. His name--Number Twelve, of course. The whole concept of being labelled "unmutual" was worthy of Douglas Adams's "Share and Enjoy".
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