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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Prisoner was filmed in the North Wales resort village of Portmeirion over the course of a year. Patrick McGoohan was inspired to film his series there after filming a couple of Danger Man (1960) episodes in the village. See more »
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 »
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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