The Prisoner (TV Series 1967–1968) Poster



British rock band Iron Maiden did two songs based on The Prisoner (1967). One was "The Prisoner" on the album "Number of the Beast", the other song was "Back in the Village" on the album "Powerslave". Also, on "Number of the Beast" in the inside cover the band said "Special thanks to Patrick McGoohan for The Prisoner intro and the great TV series."
Jump to: Cameo (1) | Spoilers (2)
"Rover", the menacing white balloon that acts as a surreal sentry in The Village, was supposed to have been a large robotic machine. During the filming of the first episode, it was supposed to travel across water on a pair of rails hidden under the surface. The machine fell off the rails and into the water, damaging the motors inside. Just then, a weather balloon passed by, and Patrick McGoohan came upon the idea of "Rover" being a large white balloon that traveled by itself. The reason the cast stands still as Rover wanders past is because the balloon is being pulled by a wire. The shots were then run backwards, and edited into the film (In one episode, smoke can be seen drifting back into a chimney in the distance as Rover passes by).
Patrick McGoohan was adamant that Number Six not become romantically involved with anyone on the series (carrying over a policy he put in place for his John Drake character in Danger Man (1960)). Nonetheless, writers tried to pair Number Six up with female leads on a few occasions, only to have their efforts vetoed by Patrick McGoohan. The characters played by Nadia Gray in "Chimes of Big Ben" and Angela Browne in "A Change of Mind" were both written as love interests for Number Six, and there was reportedly a bed scene written for "Chimes" but McGoohan would have none of it. The closest Number Six comes to romance is in his friendship/simpatico with Alison in "The Schizoid Man" and in the character of an observer who falls in love with him in "Dance of the Dead."
Interiors were shot in a studio located next door to the studio used for filming 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). A special effects shot of a starry sky that was created for the movie was borrowed by the producers of the TV series for use as an insert in an early edit of the episode "Chimes of Big Ben". Though cut from the televised version, the early edit of the episode including the 2001 footage was later released on video and DVD. (The starry night shot appears in the sequence where No. 6 uses a handmade device to study the sky in hopes of determining The Village's location).
Co-creator George Markstein later wrote a book about a real-life facility similar to (but nowhere near as sinister as) The Village which was reportedly set up in a remote area of Britain during WWII in order to protect people with knowledge of sensitive information.
The 1967 world television premiere of the series was actually in Canada (on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-CBC) - shortly before the UK airing.
According to script editor and co-creator George Markstein, Number Six resigned from his position after discovering files indicating the existence of the Village. The Village was an idea Number Six had submitted to his superiors many years before but had since decided was monstrously inhuman.
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.
Leo McKern and Colin Gordon are the only actors to play Number Two more than once: McKern in "The Chimes of Big Ben", "Once Upon a Time" and "Fall Out", Gordon in "A. B. and C." and "The General".
Patrick McGoohan and "Number 6" were both born on the same day, 19 March 1928 according to the episode Arrival.
The building in Portmeirion shown as Number Six's house in the series became a gift shop selling Prisoner-related merchandise.
Both Brian Cox, and Clough Williams-Ellis - creator of Portmeirion - worked on the series as extras.
In order to create their characteristic movement, the Rovers were filled with a mixture of air, helium and water.
Leo McKern, Colin Gordon, Mary Morris and Peter Wyngarde are the only Number Twos to have their voices on the introduction piece featuring the questioning of Number Six. The other "standard" voice(s) of Number Two was supplied by 'Robert Rietty (I)'.
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.
There is much debate over the proper order in which the episodes should be viewed, as neither ITV in Britain nor CBS in the US originally broadcast the episodes in production order. The A&E DVD release in 2001 placed the episodes in what it described as the "fan-preferred" order (though this is open for debate). The episode viewing order suggested by A&E is as follows: 1. Arrival 2. Free for All 3. Dance of the Dead 4. Checkmate 5. Chimes of Big Ben 6. A, B and C 7. The General 8. The Schizoid Man 9. Many Happy Returns 10. It's Your Funeral 11. A Change of Mind 12. Hammer Into Anvil 13. Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling 14. Living in Harmony 15. The Girl Who Was Death 16. Once Upon a Time 17. Fall Out
The costumes worn throughout the series are in fact the sports uniforms of Mill Hill School in North London. Patrick McGoohan moved into a house opposite the school, while developing the series. It had an eccentric selection of blazers and ties in the schools chocolate and white colours. One day he walked into the school shop and ordered the full range from the outfitter. While in the area he befriended the actor Ian Carmichael and the pair of them used to walk their dogs in the school grounds, The Prisoner and Bertie Wooster, with matching Labradors.
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).
McGoohan arranged for another actor to play Number Six for one episode (a mind-swap story) so he could take time off to film Ice Station Zebra (1968).
It has been speculated that Number Six is in fact John Drake from Patrick McGoohan's earlier series, Danger Man (1960) and Secret Agent (1964). Several references to the earlier series appear, many bit players are common between them, and some believe he is referred to by name in one episode (though others interpret the dialogue differently). Although McGoohan vehemently denied that #6 is Drake, he seems to have been out-voted, as co-writer George Markstein) said yes, and officially sanctioned novels based on the series refer to Number Six as John Drake.
Unusual for a 1960s TV series, two episodes were broadcast without opening credits sequences: "Living in Harmony" and "Fall Out."
The series first aired on American TV in 1968 as a summer replacement for a Jackie Gleason series.
Among the musicians who worked on The Prisoner theme is guitarist Vic Flick, who also played the famous James Bond Theme in the early 007 movies.
Only two actors played Number Two more than once: Leo McKern in "Chimes of Big Ben," "Once Upon a Time" and "Fall Out"; and Colin Gordon in "The General" and "A, B and C." Several other actors who played Number Two also appeared in other roles in the series (e.g. Kenneth Griffith as No. 2 in "Girl Who Was Death" and as The Judge in "Fall Out.").
On several occasions plans were made to adapt The Prisoner (1967) into a feature film. Patrick McGoohan once considered filming a sequel that took place 100 years or more after the TV series. A movie was announced in 2001 with McGoohan as executive producer and Simon West as director, but was shelved by 2002.
Ranked #7 in TV Guide's list of the "25 Top Cult Shows Ever!" (30 May 2004 issue).
The series' enigmatic finale was so controversial that, according to legend, Patrick McGoohan had to go into hiding for a time.
In some shots, a pursuing Rover was managed by connecting it by wires to the feet of its "victim".
Ron Grainer's theme music was titled "The Age of Elegance" and according to some sources predates The Prisoner (1967) by several years. However, many sources claim that the theme music is yet another creation of Patrick McGoohan himself. Reportedly, he whistled it into a tape recorder, Grainier transcribed that onto sheet music, did the arrangements and orchestrations and deserves credit for getting the music into good shape.
Patrick McGoohan was so averse to on-screen romance that in the scenes in "Chimes of Big Ben" when he has his arm around Nadia and is stroking her hair, it is actually McGoohan's own daughter in a wig.
During its premier run in the Winter of 1967, filming had got so far behind schedule that TV stations in the UK ran out of episodes to show and some opted to show the two (then unseen) last episodes of Danger Man (1960). This of course confused the public even more.
The Butler (played by Maltese actor Angelo Muscat) never speaks, and appears in more episodes than anyone else, other than Patrick McGoohan.
No 6 gives his birthdate and time as 4.31 am, 19th March, 1928 - which is exactly the same as Patrick McGoohan's.
Peter Swanwick, who played the Supervisor, died before the series finished its first run in the UK. He is best remembered for his unusual enunciation of "Orange Alert".
The Village pub is called "The Cat and Mouse". It is only seen in "Free for All", however.
The Village produces several publications, the best known being "The Tally Ho" newspaper. Sometimes "the Tally Ho" can be bought in a shop/stall, and sometimes it comes straight off a small mangle like press. Magazines (rarely seen, except for covers in background) include the Village Mercury and Village Weekly, which appear more aimed at women.
Although umbrellas are frequently carried around by villagers, and weather forecasts can sometimes be heard, the only time rain can be seen in the series is in "A., B. & C.".
The true name of the Prisoner/Number Six is not revealed. A few names are attached to him in the series, but it is never verified whether any of them are real: In The Prisoner: Many Happy Returns (1967) he identifies himself as Peter Smith; in The Prisoner: Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling (1968), it is revealed that he possesses several code names: Schmidt, Duval, and ZM-73.
Due to the quirks of ITV's regional franchise, "The Prisoner" was not seen in North Wales (where the outdoor scenes were filmed) until 1970 when HTV bought it up.
Patrick McGoohan's jacket was actually dark brown with piping. Two were used in the series, and were slightly different from each other.
The numeral 7 never appears in the Village, either on its own, or in another number. Although we see No 2 and No 6, the characters No 3, No 4 and No 5 never appear (if they exist). However, the number 7 does appear when No. 6 visits the graveyard in episode Hammer Into Anvil on the grave marker that reads 73.
The Supervisor/No 28 (Peter Swanwick), who appears more often than anyone apart from No 6 and the Butler, is never seen outside, and is mostly seen in the control room and (very occasionally) in the Green Dome.
Signs with "Residents Only" and "Private, Residents Only", feature regularly in the series, written on walls and even on the grass. These may be "artefacts" from Portmeirion (which is a hotel in real life), however, they are something an in-joke, since everyone in the Village is by definition a "resident" anyway.
The hand signal used by villagers is supposedly identical to one used by early Christians to represent a fish.
The typeface used for most of the written signs in the Village, and the episode titles is Albertus, with two modifications - 1) the dot above "i" and "j" is nearly always removed, and 2) the letter "e" is nearly always modified to look like the Euro currency symbol with a single bar. Some exceptions to this include when capital letters are used in signs, and when No 6 is shown maps of the Village in "Arrival", normal "e"s are used. The information sign in the Village in "Arrival" also uses an entirely different font.
The original closing sequence was going to end on the word 'POP'. It featured two spheres, one of the Earth, and rather puzzlingly, the Earth not in a space background, but sat next to another sphere which had 'space' in it.
The resort village of Portmeirion in North Wales, which was used as "The Village," was not credited until the beginning of the final episode.
The license plate on the car driven by The Prisoner in the credits is KAR 120C. The license plate of the car that follow him is TLH 858.


George Markstein:  The bald-headed man sitting behind the desk during the opening credits is the series' script editor and co-creator.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Georgina Cookson is the only Number Two to wear a black badge, with a white penny farthing, at the end of "Many Happy Returns".
While most Number Twos are male, during the course of the series we see at least four women in the position ("Dance of the Dead", "Free for All", "Many Happy Returns" and a female Number Two is seen very briefly in "It's Your Funeral").

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

Contribute to This Page